HS 307 - Evidence Based Research Methods in Health Sciences: CINAHL Complete

Determine Search Terms

Finding the Right Words

Before running a search spend some time finding the correct search terms based off of the concept keywords you put together earlier.  In CINAHL these terms are browsable under the CINAHL Subject Headings tab.


Type your concept keyword into the search box provided to find the correct subject term which describes your concept.  

Example: Melanoma is the correct subject term in CINAHL for this topic.cinahl_subject_headings_interpret_results.png


You can see that Melanoma is listed within a hierarchy of subject headings.  This hierarchy helps you narrow in on specific concepts.  For more information about a heading click the scope note while browsing.  In this case choosing Melanoma would retrieve articles that addressed the topic generally but would exclude articles which focused on one specific type.  If you wanted to view articles about Melanoma generally as well as articles that addressed the specific types you could string these subject headings together using the Boolean OR operator.

Major / Minor Concept

CINAHL allow you to distinguish between subjects as a Major or Minor concept.  Choosing "Major Concept" would exclude articles that just make casual mention of a topic, while choosing Minor topic might include articles that only have a small section on the topic.


If you need to browse for additional headings you can click the button for this at the bottom of the screen.  CINAHL will compile a list of all of the subject terms you have selected and run a search for you when you are finished.  

Note: It is a good idea to write these terms down, as they will not be stored for your use later.

Conduct the Search


Once you have planned your search you are ready to execute it.  Return to the main CINAHL interface and enter the terms you have decided on.  Remember that you may need to refine your search several times before you start evaluating the records.  You can refine a search by using the options on the left hand side of the screen.  This will help you narrow down your results to only those which are most likely to be relevant to you.  The goal is to restrict the search to a manageable number for you to look through.


When you have a reasonable number f search results you should move on to examining the records in detail.  While doing this, do not worry about reading the Full Text of the articles just yet.  Instead pay attention to the subject terms and the abstracts.  Reading these should help you understand whether or not you need to spend time reading the full text of the article.  When you are ready you can click the "Full Text" link if available or you can request the article through the Interlibrary Loan process.



Citation Management

Saving the Article

Once you find an article that is of interest to you go ahead and save the bibliographic information so that you can refer to it in the future.  This is helpful when writing papers or for conducting future research.  Managing bibliographic information is made very easy by using a citation management tool like Zotero.   We will discuss Zotero in detail at a later time. 

If you use Zotero, the full text of the article will automatically be saved for you along with the citation, but if you do not use Zotero you will want to go ahead and save / download the articles full text now so that you can refer to it later.  When searching for articles it is best to read citations and abstracts while performing the search and read the full text of the articles at a later time.  This way you gather all of the information you are likely to refer to at once without becoming distracted.

If full text is not immediately available you will want to place an Interlibrary Loan request soon so that the library can have the article delivered to you.  Interlibrary Loan is a program your library offers where articles can be requested from other libraries when they are not owned by Carroll's Library. Interlibrary Loans can be placed using the library web form or by following the link in the article record.

Subsequent Searches

The Next Steps

Once you find an article you are interested in there a couple of strategies you might consider for follow up searches.   

1) Look at the subject terms assigned to this article - are there any terms that this article was given that match your research question?   If so add them into your next search in order to find articles similar to the one you are interested in.

2) Look at the article's work cited section - are there any articles listed there that inform your research question?  If so you might consider the citation tracking strategy to read the research that your current article is referring to.

3) Look for a "Cited by" or "Times cited" section of the record.  Sometimes you are able to use citation tracking to see what works have cited an article after its publication.  This is not always available, but when it is it can be a great way to find articles which have responded to the article you are interested in.


Need Help?

We would love to help you with your specific questions on this and any future projects you are working on.  If you'd like to get help from a librarian please Ask Us.